I apologize for the length of this post. I hope you will read and consider passing it on. This is a personal story of Domestic Abuse. This is a personal appeal to anyone who reads this story to get active and demand justice for all members of society who are victims of Domestic Abuse. Demand Congress pass VAWA without changes to the current incarnation. Thanks
In 1972, I was 15; I was first a ward of the state then a runaway, a street child then finally a ‘wife’. In 1972, I was the victim of domestic abuse that would continue for three years. Abuse both physical and emotional, that would strip me of my pride and humanity that would leave scars I bear on my body and soul and that would very nearly kill me.
In 1972, there were no laws to prevent a man from beating his wife. There were no Domestic Abuse Hotlines. There were no Safe Houses. There were no cool down periods, unless some cop took pity on you.
In 1972, the best you could hope for is either he would die of a heart attack while beating you or he would give you quick death. No one was going to help you and you had no rights, you were chattel.
I have written about this before, touched upon some of my experiences as a victim of domestic abuse in previous postings, here:
I have tried hard to stand up and say I am not a victim; I am a survivor of Domestic Abuse. The truth of the matter, for each of us who survived violence the truth is different. When our partner, our love, our spouse was throwing us against a wall, laying unloving hands upon us, kicking us when we were down painting our days and nights in pain and fear we were indeed Victims.
Perhaps, if we are standing today and we are standing without that partner we are free, but I still remember. In my very bones, I still remember. It isn’t so much I remember his brutality, though it is hard to forget; I remember the police who walked away as I swayed in the middle of the living room barely able to stand upright. I remember them looking at me knowingly, staring at the bruises, the blackened eyes, the fat and bloody lip or the bald patch in my head. I remember them telling us to keep it down or telling him, ‘I had enough’.
I Had Enough. Were they judging the beating had gone on long enough? Were they judging the amount of blood or the number of visible bruises? I have always wondered about this, always wondered what code they were speaking, sometimes they laughed with him as he agreed to ‘keep it down’. These visits by the police, these drive-by stop in and calm down visits always earned me at least one more closed fist from him as he walked by, ‘See what you did? Why can’t you be quiet?’
There was only one time, my husband this man who was supposed to love me went to jail. He didn’t stay long. It didn’t matter. For once my survival instinct kicked in and I used everything I had simply to grab that life preserver when it was thrown.
A little background –
- Texas in 1972 was still very backward about a great many things, marriage being one of them race relations being the other.
- My ‘marriage’ was common law, I wouldn’t find out for several years he didn’t have a legal hold on me though I still refer to him as my first ‘husband’.
The last terrible beating and the night my husband went to jail, it wouldn’t be the last beating just the last terrible one.
He had lost badly at a poker game that night, he did this often especially close to the time rent was due. For whatever reason, somehow, his losses were always my fault; I was always the target of his rage. It was the spring of 1974, I had learned by now never show emotion, never speak my mind and never react. It didn’t help; nothing could stop his need to lash out. That night was no different as he stumbled into the bedroom stinking of smoke and whiskey I could taste the beating to come, my body relaxed to absorb his fists.
‘Wake up you stupid bitch!’
Slam, into the wall. My head bounced twice, at least and my body slid down to the floor. He had picked me up from the bed and thrown me across the room, already first blood had been shed. I curled into myself, hoping this would satisfy him, the blood patch on the wall sometimes it was enough.
‘Dumb cunt, look what you did to the wall!’
Thwack, thwack again. His shoe caught me squarely in my ribs as I curled into myself. No more I thought. But, there was more to come. Already I was crying, tears and snot joining on my face as I tried to stand.
There were no more words now, just fists and feet. Furious, he beat me to the ground time and again and when I lay there as he panted above me, he would kick me demanding I stand up. Finally, when I thought, ‘No more, enough’, I did stand and I tried to run.
Running was the worst mistake I could have made, it triggered his predator instinct, he chased me out the door and into the front of yard. Before he caught me, he had grabbed a bat, one of those hollow aluminum ones. He continued to beat me when I was down on the ground. Finally, after what seemed an eternity the police arrived, someone must have called them. I was on the ground, unrecognizable and he was standing above me panting. I still remember the conversation:
‘Sir, sir what are you doing? You have to stop!’
‘I have stopped; this is my wife I can do anything I want.’
‘Miss, is this your husband?’
‘No, I have never seen him before.’
As the handcuffs clicked closed, ‘You are under arrest…….’
‘Bitch, I am going to kill you!’
‘Sir, I suggest you calm down and be quiet.’
When the ambulance arrived, I was taken to the hospital. I had multiple broken bones including;
- Broken jaw
- Broken nose (third time)
- Cracked cheek bone
- Hairline fracture, skull
- Four broken fingers
- Seven broken ribs
- Hairline fracture, pelvis
- Internal bleeding
- Plethora of contusions
He stayed in jail for 7 days until his Daddy sorted things out. I stayed in the hospital for 9 days.
Yes, I went back. For a time I went back. The psyche of women in these relationships is strange; we think if we only could fix ourselves, if we only did better they (the ones who so terribly harm us) would stop. It isn’t of course true but we have been so badly damaged we believe it. We don’t love ourselves. In not loving ourselves, we also lose the flight or fight reaction.
In 1972, there was nothing to save me. Police, had no resources and DA offices had no laws under which to prosecute unless we were fortunate enough to be killed. If we ran, if by some off chance our flight instinct kicked in the courts were against us, we ran with nothing, no resources and no access to resources.
The Violence Against Women Act changed that. It has been over 700 days since this act expired. Women, men and children are at risk. The reasons for the Congressional GOP members to stand against this act are frankly their own ideological ignorance. This act has Bipartisan support and always has, this is the first time since 1994 this act has not been reauthorized; all because it expands services to under-served communities.
What you and I can do:
Contact your representatives in Congress and demand they pass the Violence Against Women Act as it stands today with expanded services: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/